An interview made by Stéphane Ridou, EU project manager at CAAC
On 28th and 29th of April, a gathering on Atlantic Action Plan took place in Gijón (Spain). M. Charles NICOL, General Secretary of the Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities (CAAC), took this opportunity to highlight before Atlantic stakeholders the potentialities of ports for growth.
Which role should the ports of the Atlantic Arc stand?
Ports have an important role to play in supporting the blue economy. Since 2011, the CAAC has strongly emphasized the role of ports in the Atlantic strategy. Especially on the issue of their connections with major European transport axes. Formerly, nothing was mentioned about Atlantic port issues, as if ports existed only on the North Sea or the Mediterranean. After many contributions on our part to the various Atlantic forums on this issue, the ports were finally taken into account as a driving force of economic development.
Which arguments have been put forward?
When looking at a European map (see Picture above), we noticed that the Atlantic Arc is isolated from other European connections while the Atlantic coast is the largest maritime façade in Europe. The Atlantic forum has already highlighted their potential to provide new services, especially for the expanding demand on cruise tourism or industrial diversification, including renewable marine energies. Atlantic ports have enough land available for the realization of their projects and for these diversifications. They are better placed to host American and African traffic so as to relieve the traffic congestion in the English Channel or the North Sea.
What are the next steps then?
For many years, the ports have suffered from a bad reputation, returning the image of a hostile city. Efforts were made in that sense but some work still needs to be done. Cities must also understand that it is in their best interest to work together rather than establish a competitive relationship between them. In the long run, the transatlantic market that emerges is an opportunity for the port cities in terms of employment, urban recovery and connections with the rest of the European continent. The potential of our port cities is unquestionable and the EU must realize it and use it to get out of the crisis.
** In 2014 DG MARE is carrying out several Atlantic workshops so as to define guidelines for the implementation of the Atlantic Strategy.